Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

March 25, 2013

A student at Florida Atlantic University says that he was suspended from a course for refusing to engage in an activity he said was insulting to his faith. While the university has announced that the activity won't be repeated, it is contesting many details of the student's story.

The student says that as part of a class in intercultural communications, students were told to write the word Jesus on a piece of paper, fold it, and then to stamp on it, CBS4 News reported. The student, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said that when he refused, saying the exercise was insulting to his faith, he was suspended. The story was quickly picked up by conservative news and websites, with headlines such as "Professor Makes Students 'Stomp on Jesus.'"

The university released a statement in which it said that it could not comment on experiences of any one student, citing privacy laws. The university said that "no students were forced to take part in the exercise; the instructor told all of the students in the class that they could choose whether or not to participate." Further the university said that "no student has been expelled, suspended or disciplined by the university as a result of any activity that took place during this class."

Nonetheless, the university statement added: "This exercise will not be used again. The university holds dear its core values. We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs."

 

 

March 25, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Ben Horton of the University of Pennsylvania reveals what we know about sea level change over the past two millennia. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.
 

March 25, 2013

The University of Oxford has agreed to review policies under which its St. Hughes College has required applicants to demonstrate -- as a condition of admission -- that they can afford the living expenses, BBC reported. The agreement resolved a suit filed by an applicant who said he was rejected when he could not demonstrate that he had that money on hand. The applicant said that the rules were a human rights violation.

 

March 25, 2013

The University of Maryland at College Park doesn't have a copy of the contract it signed to join the Big 10, The Washington Post reported. The Post filed an open records request for the contract, and was told that the university didn't have a copy. The Big 10, which is not subject to open records requests, keeps all such copies. Maryland officials said that not keeping a copy was in line with Big 10 policies, which are designed to reflect that most of its members are public universities, subject to open records requests.

March 25, 2013

The president of Ryerson University, in Toronto, is condemning as "completely unacceptable" a tradition in which engineering students who wish to be leaders in the next year's orientation program go through a series of events, including crawling through slush while wearing only their underwear. Sheldon Levy, the president, said that "anyone who contends it is ‘just fun’ or ‘builds community’ has no place at Ryerson." Students told The Toronto Star that the president was overreacting, and that the event was fun and did build community. YouTube video of the event has drawn attention to it.

 

 

March 22, 2013

In today’s Academic Minute, Mike Wheatland of the University of Sydney explains the gravity-defying physics of a falling Slinky. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

 

March 22, 2013

A key state legislator told reporters Thursday that one way North Carolina lawmakers may deal with budget cuts would be to consolidate campuses of the University of North Carolina System. "I think our members definitely envision that there could be some consolidation between campuses, and we might need to go from 16 down to 15, 14, something like that," said Senator Pete Brunstetter, co-chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, WRAL News reported. On Wednesday, Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, called for a $135 million cut in funding for the UNC system, a reduction that would follow several large cuts in recent years.

 

March 22, 2013

A former student at California State University-San Marcos on Thursday admitted to federal charges of wire fraud, access device fraud and unauthorized use of a computer, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The student had stolen the passwords of 745 students to vote for himself for student body president. After the fraud was discovered, a new election was scheduled.

March 22, 2013

Nationally, teacher education programs are boasting about tougher admissions standards. But in Mississippi, the state's higher education board is being criticized for not raising standards for entering teacher education. Governor Phil Bryant, a Republican, criticized the board for not backing his proposal to require college students entering teacher education to score 21 or higher on the ACT and to have a 3.0 grade-point average on college work prior to starting the major, the Associated Press reported. Currently, the average for teacher ed majors is 20.8 on the ACT. College officials said that if they adopted the governor's plan, half of their students would no longer be eligible.

 

 

March 22, 2013

In a press call coinciding with the kickoff of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said college presidents, trustees and coaches need to take up a “different set of values” and worry more about graduation and less about on-court victories. Citing the large gap in graduation rates between white and black male athletes (up to 30 percentage points on some basketball teams) and the 11:1 difference in value of contractual coach bonuses for athletic success vs. academic success, Duncan called for a “better, healthier balance.”

“It will take courageous leadership by governing boards and college presidents and willingness to engage,” Duncan said, “and challenge the status quo.” Duncan suggested more financial incentives for better, more equal graduation rates – or disincentives for failure to produce such a result – could improve athletes’ academic performance.

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